Acupuncture is a relatively uncommon treatment approach for diabetic patients here in the UK, however in modern China it is very much part of the mainstream. Acupuncture puts the emphasis on treating diabetes with an integrated care of body, the removal of symptoms and prevention of complications. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that acupuncture can help resolve both specific symptoms and conditions.
From a biomedical viewpoint, acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, influencing the production of the body’s communication substances – hormones and neurotransmitters. These biochemical changes activate the body’s self-regulating systems, encouraging the homeostasis, and thus stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities.
Acupuncture promotes emotional and physical well-being helping people manage better with stress. Stress is a significant risk factor for diabetes sufferers as stress hormones cause blood glucose to rise and promote insulin resistance.
There have been a number of clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of acupuncture in treating diabetes and reducing the risk of developing complications.
These indicate that acupuncture helps diabetes sufferers by:
- regulating insulin production (Lin et al, 2004)
- regulating blood sugar levels (Lin 2004; Chang 2006; Cabioğlu 2006; Jiang 2006)
- improving the blood lipid profile (Cabioğlu 2005; Jiang 2006)
- improving blood circulation (Tsuchiya 2007), thus helping to slow the onset and progression of diabetic circulatory complications
Acupuncture can be safely and effectively combined with Western medicine and most people who come to acupuncture for the treatment of diabetes do so as part of an integrated treatment plan combined with Western medication.
CabioğluMT, Ergene N. Changes in levels of serum insulin, C-Peptide and glucose after electroacupuncture and diet therapy in obese women. Am J Chin Med. 2006; 34(3):367-76.
Lin JG et al. Multiple sources of endogenous opioid peptide involved in the hypoglycemic response to 15 Hz electroacupuncture at the Zhongwan acupoint in rats. Neurosci Lett. 2004 Aug 5;366(1):39-42.
Chang SL et al. Enhanced insulin sensitivity using electroacupuncture on bilateral Zusanli acupoints (ST 36) in rats. Life Sci. 2006 Aug 1;79(10):967-71.
CabioğluMT, Ergene N. Electroacupuncture therapy for weight loss reduces serum total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels in obese women. Am J Chin Med. 2005; 33(4):525-33.
Jiang H et al. Clinical study on the wrist-ankle acupuncture treatment for 30 cases of diabetic peripheral neuritis. J Tradit Chin Med. 2006 Mar;26(1):8-12.